The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree
by Gloria Houston; Pictures by Barbara Cooney
New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1988
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree is an older book, written in 1988, but it is one I never read before and it touched me so much I simply had to review and recommend it. It takes place during World War I in Appalachia. Ruthie's family was in charge of providing the Christmas tree for their local Church that year so Ruthie and her father went to pick one out in the early spring. They find a perfect balsam on a high cliff. But then, Ruthie's father is drafted into the war. The year wears on and Ruthie and her mom struggle to make ends meet without him. Every night, Ruthie prays the same prayer, "Please send my papa home for Christmas and please have old St. Nicholas bring me a doll with a beautiful dress, the color of cream, all trimmed with ribbons and lace."
Finally, a letter comes that her father will be home for Christmas. But, the days until the holiday grow shorter and he still doesn't come. Is there any way for Ruthie's family to deliver the promised Christmas tree and for Ruthie to get to be the Christmas angel? Will her daily prayer be answered?
When I was reading this story out loud to my daughter, I was sobbing so hard I could barely read. It is recommended for grades K - 3, but it is definitely one of those picture books that all ages can read and be touched by.